Beckett challenged

Shadow Agricultural and Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Paice, has challenged Margaret Beckett over her failure to inform parliament and the farming industry that she had applied to extend the deadline for Single Farm Payments.

According to the European Agriculture Commissioner, a formal request was made by the UK government on April 12 for an extension of the Single Farm Payment regulatory deadline to 15 October 2006. But this was not mentioned in Beckett's written statement to the House on April 19 or during Defra questions on April 20.

Commenting on this development, Paice said: "Margaret Beckett knows that the tax-payer, as well as farmers, will have to pay the price for her incompetence. Our research shows that even if all money was paid by the end of July the EU will still impose a ?ne of over £20m on the government for its delays. A request for an extension until October suggests that she thinks it could take until then to sort out this mess, by which time the cost to the taxpayer would be considerably more. In the meantime thousands of farmers and their suppliers are suffering serious ?nancial hardship."

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